You may expect men of great brawn and muscle-thickness to instigate the massive spectacles in modern, action-packed video games. Infamous' Cole, is a slender PlayStation 3 hero, but Infamous 2 already shows he could wreck Marcus Fenix, ruin the Hulk.
On the eve of New York Comic-Con where more titanic super-heroes will be on display, Sony is showing the latest progress in Infamous 2, the 2011 PlayStation 3 exclusive starring the system's original electric-powered hero. They are leaving people like me, who see the game running, with the impression that Cole could take the X-Men or the Justice League. He seems mightier than them and mightier than he was in his previous game.
Cole is still a nimble, wall-crawling, free-runner. He still has the agility inherited from development studio Sucker Punch's Sly Cooper games. He still can grind across power-lines as if they were skateboard rails. He can still shoot electric bolts from his hands.
He's also got the ability in the new game to boost high into the air by leaping atop a car and firing electricity down toward its metal frame. That move launches Cole.
He can swing his two hands from one side of his hip, out away from the front of his body, emitting an electrified tornado that twists and tosses the friends and foes in its path.
Cole seems super-charged in the early scenes I've witnessed from Infamous 2, but that is partially a camera trick. Infamous 2 uses close camera angles when Cole performs some of his most potent new moves. The view zooms tightly when Cole swings a finishing blow with his new electrified amp stick which makes Cole a home-run hitter of bad guys.
Infamous officials showed me two portions of the unfinished game this week. They told me that I was the seventh person in the world — excluding developers — to play the part of the game shown at last month's Penny Arcade Expo. Seventh! First on American soil. You can watch a PAX trailer of the section I played. Note the melee attacks and the more powerful moves. With Cole's energy reserves artificially juiced for preview purposes, I tried tossing electricity grenades and firing electrified rockets. My favorite move is the car toss, which requires Cole to slowly levitate a car, aim and hurl it.
As with the first game, I found the PS3 DualShock 3 controls responsive and the action fluid and fast. Aiming was mapped to trigger buttons and analog stick; powers were mostly on the face buttons and d-pad.
There was a second part of the game I wasn't allowed to control. This was the newest stuff. The Infamous 2 stomping grounds are New Marais, a city based on New Orleans. Unlike the uniformly urban Empire City of the first Infamous, New Marais has varied terrain. I was shown a cemetery full of mausoleums and a poor area out near the countryside, with lower houses and a grander view of sky. The Infamous developers who showed me these sections said the new game will have both more varied territory and more opportunities to scale walls. Buildings will be more distinct and power lines more abundant, for fast zipping between roofs and even up the sides of structures a player is too impatient to climb.
Infamous 2 has more to prove. The developers have not yet revealed how the game's missions will flow and how its morality system might differ from that of the previous game. They promise something more branching that can end in different ways. We'll see that in the future. For now, we can forecast a game whose hero feels like a champion, a man so mighty that he seems capable of doing with a shoulder shrug what beefier heroes would do with a muscle flex.